Laura Jurca, the adorable 14-year-old Romanian gymnast, is one of the favorites for a nice medal haul at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
Born in Munich, Jurca trains at Deva while also a member of the Swiss gymnastics club STV Lenzburg, near to where her parents reside in Switzerland. Though the Romanian team currently has a shortage of seniors, its juniors are all incredibly promising for the future, with several girls turning 16 before the Rio eligibility deadline, and Jurca will be a huge part of the team’s future success.
The gymnastics world got a first real peek at Jurca in 2012 when she competed at the Romanian national championships. She earned a 4th place finish on vault and 7th on floor, though sparked an interest among fans who loved watching her perform.
Her international debut came at Gymnix in 2013, placing just 7th with her team but gaining more attention. She had a bit more success at a junior friendly meet between Romania and France (helping her team to the gold while also caputuring vault bronze) and then earned the silver on vault along with a 6th place beam finish at the European Youth Olympic Festival. She finished her year at Romanian nationals earning her third vault medal of 2013 – this time a gold.
This year, Jurca appeared at the City of Jesolo Trophy, where she earned a silver medal behind the Americans with her team, a silver on floor, and a bronze on vault. She also made both beam and bars finals, and finished 4th in the all-around, making it her most successful competition to that point.
She followed her success in Italy with a bronze all-around medal at a friendly meet between Romania, Belgium, and France, but the European Championships were where she finally put her name out there as one to beat.
Jurca approached Euros calmed and poised, and though she qualified third in the all-around behind Angelina Melnikova and Seda Tutkhalyan of Russia, she was able to take advantage of Seda’s mistakes in all-around finals, earning the silver medal despite form breaks and an extra swing on her already low-difficulty bars routine. During event finals, Jurca earned a silver on vault and ended her meet placing 5th on floor.
Here is Jurca’s vault final performance at Euro’s. She comes in with so much power on both her DTY and FTY, but while she’s known as a vaulter, she’ll really have to fight for a medal on the event in Nanjing, as her difficulty falls behind that of Tutkhalyan, Sae Miyakawa, and Ellie Downie.
Her bars aren’t incredibly difficult and she has the telltale Romanian bent elbows and labored swing, but she can be counted on for a hit routine in a high-pressure situation!
On beam, Jurca performs some pretty nice difficulty but isn’t necessarily the cleanest. She should be able to mkae the final in Nanjing, but like vault, a medal will be hard in a field incredibly strong on this apparatus. Strong…but mentally not always the toughest, so she could definitely try to take advantage of that!
Like vault and beam, Jurca doesn’t have the biggest standout exercise, but has some solid difficulty and can be expected to hit nicely…it’s probably her best-executed routine and has such catchy music!
Jurca faces some strong competition in Nanjing, including home girl Wang Yan in addition to Tutkhalyan, Downie, and Flavia Saraiva. Though not the cleanest competitor – you can expect her execution to be in the low 8s for most of her hit routines – she’s probably the most consistent in the bunch. Top dogs Saraiva and Tutkhalyan are hit-or-miss, and tend to make large mistakes that severely reduce their all-around scores. Jurca took advantage of Tutkhalyan’s mistakes once already this year, so while she’ll need to work for all-around gold, she has a huge advantage in remaining calm and level-headed when others fall apart.